Mulat ang Bayan sa Takot at Hirap

Pwersa ng Masa Press Conference, Club Filipino

We have survived with flying colors!

There goes Malacañang’s Rigoberto Tiglao jumping and singing his hosanna to Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. For Tiglao, survival with flying colors is not something. It is everything. Talagang may gloria ang bukas ni Tiglao. Siya lang. 

This administration – after 11 months of broken promises – has chosen to salivate on its vaunted 3.3% Gross Domestic Product growth. Visibly lost in its new-found euphoria, it has opted to ignore the question: Where did it go?

It could not have gone to Divisoria. According to traders, their sales went down by a whopping 40%.

It could not have gone to Bulacan. According to firecracker manufacturers, this year’s Christmas has been their bleakest and dullest.

It could not have gone to Payatas. It could have only sunk in a bancang papel in the murky waters of the Pasig river.

Kung walang gloria sa Pasko, kailan at saan?

President Arroyo has painted the picture’ that our economy looks better than in other ASEAN countries. She is not uncovering the whole picture. She deliberately forgets to say that ours is a weak economy only now beginning to move its fingers in pain. She deliberately omits to tell us that other ASEAN countries – even without a 3.3% GDP growth – need not survive with flying colors. For they remain economically strong.

President Arroyo’s glowing ecstasy is understandable. She sees a bigger pandesal. Unfortunately for her, the majority of the Filipino people can never get a taste of it. The National Statistics Office has registered people’s feeling of malaise. The Social Weather Stations surveys have confirmed it. Unfortunately for the Filipino People, the President refuses to be more foresight.

Where did the 3.3% GDP growth all go? To grease, graft, and corruption? Is this the reason why our country under the moral ascendancy of President Gloria has remained the third most corrupt in the world according to Transparency International?

Are we also surviving all the grease, graft, and greed with flying colors? Read Transparency International again. Elementary, Mr. Tiglao.

We have become a nation of scandals and scams under this administration. Telephone franchise scam. PCSO scam. Jueteng scam. Extortion in the corridors of power. Unabated smuggling. The list never ends. It only grows longer.

Are we again surviving all these scandals and scams also with flying colors? All under Her Moral Ascendancy? Or must we now pay attention tot he Abenina statement of the year: I can not serve this corrupt government.

There is an uglier part of the picture which the President can not forever cover with her 3.3% GDP growth. I am referring tot he 104.44% growth of kidnap-for-ransom crimes. From January to November this year, there are 92 cases from 45 cases for the same period last year. Call that flying colors, too?

We are not disturbed less if we are poor but we are disturbed very much more if we are unsafe in our homes, neighborhoods, offices, factories, and in the streets. So say the poor of the Philippines today.

What about the rich? They say something even more disturbing: We are fast becoming an endangered, if not already extinct, species.

The majority has ceased to be silent. So has people’s despair: Everywhere.

It is not long ago when Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered on July 23 her first State of the Nation Address (SONA). She spoke of her vision for the country. She asked the people to believe in her and see through her the advent of prosperity, freedom, and justice. I take this duty upon my shoulders, she boldly declared. I do so without fear or foreboding, she bravely added.

Her Excellency was sure, absolutely sure. The Filipino People believed with her. It was morning again for the Philippines. It was sunrise once more for the Filipino.

May Gloria ang bukas mo.

To prevail and succeed, Her Excellency pronounced and presented her national agenda template made of four components, all of which geared to win the war against poverty, namely:

One, economic philosophy of free enterprise with a social conscience.

Two, agriculture modernization founded on social equity.

Three, social bias in favor of the disadvantaged.

Four, higher moral standards of government and society. Under this component falls the rule of law and public safety.

I regard with a soft hearth the President’s failure to deliver on her first three commitments. The September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States have made commerce and agriculture less profitable than more. Understandably, maximum social bias on the disadvantage could have been only more rhetorical than resultant.

I cannot, however, give her the benefit of the doubt as regards her distinguished failure to improve moral standards, as well as peace and order, in government and society. This is one room she promised to improve.

After almost a year as President, she has yet to occupy it. She should at least try harder.

Secondly, the state of this nation – as to peace and order – is so alarming that we are once more the kidnap capital of Asia. If this is President Arroyo’s proud achievement in eleven months, then we have every reason to feel outraged.

The state of the nation – as to peace and order – is so dangerous that fear of crime does not only exist I the streets, it has already invaded the neighborhoods. Even condominiums are no longer safe.

The state of the nation – as to peace and order – is so detrimental that fear of the police has once more surged. Three out of ten people do not trust the police. The silent majority shows contempt for the police whose leaders are known to be on the take from jueteng and other illegal activities.

Outside of government, people in business, media, church, labor, and academe are one in saying that law and order has broken down in the last 11 months of the Arroyo administration. When the warning signs showed up, the Arroyo administration took the route of playing with statistics and of playing down the increasing deterioration of public safety.

Now that it has recognized such breakdown as the most problem of the nation, it can not seem to focus on it in a manner that reassures the Filipino people.

Things are so hopeless that it had to take an American Chamber of Commerce to tell Her Excellency to act quickly and decisively. It is no longer a wonder why people are talking about the country’s kidnapped economy.

The kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) criminal industry has been the most lethal nemesis of the Arroyo administration whose performance against it remains untainted by victory. It is a helpless hostage to KFR syndicates. Table 1 shows it all.

2000 2001 Increase
Jan 7 7 none
Feb 4 8 4
March 4 11 7
April 2 6 4
May 3 6 3
June 1 9 8
July 5 7 2
August 2 12 10
Sept 5 11 6
Oct 3 12 9
Nov 9 3 6 decrease
Total 45 92 47

In a speech before the cadets of the Philippine National Police Academy, President Arroyo described her lack of victory against organized criminality as a dampener to her over-all performance. She should have categorized it as the dark night in Philippine history where anarchy prevailed beyond her capacity to destroy it. Was she content to survive and still allow her lapdog to praise her with flying colors?

Something is equally disturbing. Table 2 shows a correlation between the 2000-2001 KFR volume and areas where jueteng predominated in the country’s six jueteng regions. The correlation is not hard to see.

TABLE II KFR in Jueteng Regions
Region 2000 2001 %Inc Regional Director
1 none 2 200% Arturo Lomibao
2 none none 0% Dominador Resos
3 4 13 225% Reynaldo Berroya
4 1 9 800% Domingo Reyes
5 1 4 300% Enrique Galang
NCR 4 33 725% Peña & Galvante

Is it possible that KFR increased so much because most of the police officers’ time was spent to protect jueteng in those six regions? Perhaps, President Arroyo should take time to ask the question if she want an answer.

Let me hasten to add, however, that at NCR, the Regional Director (then the late Romeo Peña, and later Edgar Galvante) was not reported to be on the take.

In her July SONA, the President pledged a re-charged police that will stamp out the crimes that have plagued our business, terrorized the common folk, and embarrassed the country. We will spend one billion pesos – for a start – to modernize and professionalize the police, she said.

A billion is not needed at all to re-charge the police.

She can save that big amount. Al she has to do is to change the leaders in the PNP. At the top.

Retire those who need to be retired. Relieve those who are on the take. Replace them with the best even if young.

Perhaps, these young and idealistic police officers will be more inspired to solve crimes and not embarrass the entire police organization by lousy investigations by the Gualbertos of the PNP. These Gualbertos are the best proof that PNP will never be able to solve the murder of Popoy Lagman, Augusto Chan, Nida Blanca, Strawberry, and a multitude of other victims.

As to the Abu Sayyaf, the Arroyo administration has consistently demonstrated utter absence of political will. This is a police problem requiring police work and the application of the criminal justice system. I hope this administration will not transform the crime of Misuari into a national security issue which it is not.

When peace and order is restored, business will move again. With more jobs, there will be less Filipinos without them. With more people at work, poverty incidence will decrease.

But this is possible only where and when the Arroyo administration will welcome – if not listen to – the political opposition.

President Arroyo must stop regarding the political opposition as a destabilizer of her regime. Instead, she must learn to withstand exposure to empirical examination by the opposition forces.

She must stop encouraging subalterns like Victor Corpus to demolish the opposition. Instead, she must remove bumbling heads like Corpus and entrust positions of responsibility to competent people.

She must cease her politicking. Instead, she must build bridges to connect and unite the Filipino people.

Only then will her administration harvest flying colors without need to survive anything. And who knows, prosperity incidence will finally appear.

Let us, then, together work for that safe place. Only from such a safe place will the phenomenon of prosperity emerge.

Let us together make sure it will.